Zookeeper Efforts to Save Rhinos
An Interview with Amber Berndt, Senior Keeper at the Indianapolis Zoo

A Zookeeper’s Efforts to Save Rhinos


Published April 6, 2022

Amber Berndt is passionate about rhinos and securing a future for the endangered species. Her dedication has led to the success of the annual Bowling for Rhinos event.

We sat down with Amber to learn more about her career at the Indianapolis Zoo and to discover how her passion for rhinos has led to one most successful fundraisers for the species.

Q: What is your current role at the Indianapolis Zoo?

A: I am a senior keeper in the plains department at the Zoo. The main animals I care for are rhinos, giraffes and gazelle, but I am also trained to care for cheetahs, warthogs, zebra, kudu, ostrich and wildebeest. I began my career as an intern and seasonal Zookeeper during college on summer breaks and I’ve been a full-time keeper at the Zoo for 17 years now.

Q: Are there other animal-related organizations you are involved with?

A: Outside of the Zoo, I continue my passion for animal conservation. I am currently a member of the International Rhino Keepers Association (IRKA) and was previously on the Board of Directors. I am also a member of our local American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) chapter and was previously the chapter president.

Q: What is Bowling for Rhinos and how did you first become involved with the event?

A: The Indianapolis AAZK chapter has been participating in the national Bowling for Rhinos event since its inception in 1990. The Indy chapter is currently ranked seventh in the nation for funds raised ($239,463) to date. I have been the chair for our local event for about 10 years now and have taken great pleasure in seeing the event grow to what it is today. Nationally, the total funds raised for rhino conservation through AAZK is $8.7 million!

Q: How can Zoo members become involved in rhino conservation?

A: I encourage Zoo members who are interested in getting involved with rhino conservation to start by supporting our local Bowling for Rhinos event on Saturday, April 30, or by supporting the International Rhino Foundation. I would also encourage members who are interested in rhinos to explore our behind-the-scenes tours. Behind the scenes, tours are given throughout the Zoo which allows people to get an up-close meet-and-greet moment with the Zoo’s rhinos. Individuals also get the opportunity to pet one of the rhinos and learn first-hand knowledge as I take the opportunity to explain about our rhinos, their behaviors, and current threats rhinos in the wild are facing, like poaching. I enjoy educating as many people as I can to keep rhinos on our planet for future generations.   

Q: What is the best part about working with rhinos?

A: I love working with rhinos because they have the best personalities and temperaments. We have three Southern White Rhinos (one male, two females) here in Indianapolis and each of them has a uniquely different personality. I am an integral part of their overall health and well-being, which means I’m responsible for training the animals for medical exams and also for “fun” behaviors to keep them motivated and engaged. I also ensure they have adequate enrichment items to keep them stimulated.

For more information and to register for this year’s event visit, IndyAAZK.org.


WATCH as Amber introduces members of our giraffe herd while she feeds them their favorite food, sweet potatoes and leaves!

WATCH as Amber introduces you to meet Mambo and Gloria, the two female rhinos in the Zoo’s herd of southern white rhinos.

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